In 2007, Rev. Michael Spurlock received his first assignment as an Episcopal priest. Sent to the dwindling All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Smyrna, Tenn., his job was to ease the 25-member congregation through the necessary hardship of closing and selling their church.
As he begins his work, he also becomes involved with a group of Karen Christian refugees from Burma (now Myanmar). Their leader, a man named Ye Win, is overwhelmed by the needs of his community. They are short on food and money, and they need work and the new life skills necessary to make it in a different country.
While the church is for sale, the Karen people come to Rev. Spurlock, asking if they can grow food on the church land. Eventually it leads to a plan that the church and refugee group work together to turn the former ballfields on the property into farmland. Growing food would use the farming skills of both the Karen people and the congregation, providing the extra food the Karen people need and making enough money to help the church pay the mortgage payments. Answers to prayer followed by complications make this an up-and-down adventure.
In this film version of the true story, former salesman Spurlock is played by the likeable John Corbett (My Big Fat Greek Wedding). He ably portrays the call to pastor a congregation, the pain of having to face a church closure, the desire to do more, and the self-doubt experienced when he and those around him wonder how much of his vision is God’s leading and how much of it is his own. He also comes to terms with his own desire to take over the proceedings rather than learning from the refugees and others who can help him.
Many of the minor roles are played by members of the real church community, both American-born and Burmese-born. The movie was also filmed at the actual All Saints’ church building.
All Saints is an enjoyable and inspiring film that tells the story of how God led one church into unexpected, sometimes uncertain, new frontiers in their ministry. A book version of the story by the same title is also available from Baker Books. (AFFIRM)